There are few things so decadently splendid as a massage in a luxurious top end spa with soft, ambient lighting, essential oils gently burning and harp music lulling your into a state of ultimate relaxation while the practiced hands of an expert work away your worries. Unfortunately, such experiences come at a price I can’t currently afford.
However, I was recently reminded of the virtues of massage when told a story of a woman who lost her husband to illness leaving her to run an enormous farm which was then destroyed by flood. When it looked like all was lost, she received a dire diagnosis herself. Against all odds, she survived and thrived and turned her life around. She was later asked in an interview what had gotten her through. Without hesitation, she said “massage”. Even when she was penniless, she would go to the local college and barter her services for the weekly luxury of human touch that became a necessity in her life.
Inspired by her story, I looked up massage schools and within seconds was on the phone to the NSW School of Massage making an appointment for an hour-long remedial massage at the student clinic for a mere $25.
The clinic itself is on the first floor of a CBD office building (225 Clarence St, Sydney to be precise) and for the most part, seems to operate as an office, save for the treatment room I was led into. It might have otherwise been the photocopy room but in the place of the xerox machine, stationary cabinet and ring binder, there were 9 barebones massage tables barely arms width apart from each other.
My designated masseuse held up a towel for me to undress behind, never mind that the guy on the next table and his masseuse were on the same side as the towel as me. It was at this point that a mental shift was required. In fairness, I had been forewarned that it was a somewhat open learning environment and although my body is not a text book example of anything, I decided at least it would provide an education. With that, I got down to my undies, lay face down on the table and naively told myself if I can’t see them, they can’t see me!
My masseuse covered what she could with the insubstantial towel and got to work on my back as I began to sink into bliss. I’m no connoisseur of massage – essentially I like to have some oil sprinkled on and have my back tickled as opposed to the pleasure that comes only from relief at the cessation of having boney bits being dug into me. This girl lacked the strength to fall into the latter category and that in itself bought relief.
Shortly after, I sensed the presence of two other people standing over me. I opened my eyes and sure enough, through the peep hole, I could see 4 extra feet. A male voice asked my masseuse if she needed help. She said she was fine but then suddenly, a disembodied voice, very close to my ear asked “how would you like two people to work on you?”. I’m not going to sugarcoat this one – it was creepy (to say nothing of the insinuation that there was enough of me to go around)! But when you’re laid out virtually naked in a room full of strangers, your powers of refutation are somewhat depleted so I conceded and told myself that two masseurs for only $25 is twice the value.
Unseen Masseuse #2 got to work on my right leg and it was actually quite nice to be pampered head to toe all at once… until she was called away again. Never mind, Seen Masseuse #1 picked up where she left off and continued on, asking me to turn over at the appropriate time with the same futile towel trick promising discretion it failed to deliver.
By the end of the treatment, despite the lack of whistles and bells and the initially disconcerting comings and goings of unseen strangers, I was thoroughly relaxed, unknotted and unwound. I also had to admit that it was a damn sight more private than massages I’d had in Thailand and for a not dissimilar price.
This experience may not be for everyone but going back to the example of the lady who credited a weekly massage as her saving grace, this is undoubtedly a great resource for people who need some affordable luxury in their lives and the relief of mind, body and spirit that comes from human touch. Not a bad option for world weary backpackers on a shoestring either – I’ve been there! What am I saying? I’m still living out of a backpack and running out of shoestring!
Next Monday, they’re practicing Aromatherapy Massage. I’m already booked in. If you wish to join me, get yourself some blinkers and call NSW School of Massage on (02) 9112 4555.